6 July 2014

Strawberry risotto

Last year my wife went to Rome as a friend's plus one at a wedding. I stayed at home and laid a patio with my brother in the late-summer rain. Rome is one of my favourite cities, and my jealousy knew no bounds. I had to cheer myself up with some new-season grouse. There's nothing quite like a plate of roast grouse to warm the cockles after a day of wet landscape gardening. What has this got to do with strawberry risotto I hear you ask. Well, my wife returned from sunny Rome with tales of prosecco and an amazing strawberry risotto that she had eaten.

With strawberries being in season I thought I would have a go at making a strawberry risotto. The result was less sweet than I expected, and had a lovely fresh flavour. Here is my recipe, which should feed four as a main course or six as a starter.


750g strawberries
200g arborio rice
1L vegetable stock
1 glass of prosecco
approx 50g unsalted butter
1tbs balsamic vinegar
1tbs lemon juice
1/2 white onion

Gently heat the vegetable stock on the hob close to where you will make the risotto. Strawberry risotto needs a light stock, and I don't think using a meat stock would taste very good. When I cook dried legumes, I save the water, which makes a great vegetable stock. It can be kept frozen until needed. If you don't have any vegetable stock to hand, you can make some using the following method.

To make vegetable stock: Cut an onion, a peeled carrot and a celery stick into large chunks. Place them in about 1.5 litres of cold water, along with a bay leaf and a couple of pepper corns. Slowly bring it to the boil, then turn the heat right down and let it simmer for half-an-hour to an hour. Strain the stock to remove the vegetable pieces.

Remove the green tops from the strawberries. Set aside about 7 or 8 or the best looking strawberries for garnish. Take about 1/3 of the remaining strawberries and puree them in a food processor with with the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Dice the rest of the strawberries. I do this by cutting them in half and then quarters lengthways, and then chopping each quarter into approx 5mm slices.

Dice the onion. Melt a knob of butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion and let it sweat down until soft. Take care not to let the onion burn.

Once the onion is thoroughly softened, turn up the heat a little and add the rice. Toast the rice for a couple of minutes until well-coated in the melted butter. The grains of rice should look just slightly translucent at the edges.

Pour in the glass of prosecco, and allow the liquid to almost completely evaporate, stirring occasionally. The risotto should take about 16-17 minutes to cook from this stage. I usually put a kitchen timer on once I start adding liquid, so I can keep track of how long it has been cooking for.

Start adding the warm vegetable stock, a ladle-full at a time. When each addition is almost absorbed, add another. Stir regularly.

Because the strawberry puree is quite wet, it needs time to be absorbed into the rice. Start adding it, again by the ladle-full, after the rice has been cooking for about 10 minutes. Because the puree is cold you may need to raise the heat a little to maintain the temperature level in the pan. The strawberry puree gives the risotto a wonderful colour.

After about 16 minutes, test the rice to see if it is ready. It should be tender, but just slightly al dente, so keep cooking until it is. If you let it cook too long, the risotto will be stodgy, as the starch in the rice breaks down too much. Keep adding liquid as the rice gets close to being ready, but in smaller amounts, so that the resulting risotto is not too wet. Risotto should be just viscous enough that when you put it on a plate it will spread out a little, rather than sitting in a solid lump.

Just before the rice is ready, add the diced strawberries and stir in.

When the rice is ready, take the pan off the heat, put the lid on and allow the risotto to rest for a minute.

When rested, add a knob of butter and beat it into the risotto. The butter will emulsify into the risotto.

Plate the risotto, and add the remaining strawberries as garnish.


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